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Account Xpress is simple to use. However, in order to really understand and fully take advantage of its functionality, it is preferable to clearly understand its basic concepts.
This tutorial will help you understand those concepts through a series of exercises that are presented in a logical sequence where the completion of one exercise prepares you for the next one. After completing all the exercises, you will have experimented with the most important features in Account Xpress and should have a very good understanding of its concepts.
NOTE: This tutorial is not intended to teach you how to use Windows, it assumes that you are already familiar with basic Windows concepts.
Here are a few tips that will help you use Account Xpress and work through the tutorial in a more efficient way.
In this tutorial you will help John, a 32-year old bachelor, with managing his personal finances using Account Xpress. You will help him keep track of his income and expenses, and reconcile his bank account statements. You will create a new file and all the accounts, categories, sub-categories and payees that he needs to keep track of his financial activities.
NOTE: In order to provide the right practice without making it too extensive, we have adequately simplified John's financial activities.
At this point, we are assuming that Account Xpress is already installed on your computer. If Account Xpress is not yet installed on your computer, please click here for a download link and installation instructions. Once Account Xpress is installed on your computer, come back to this tutorial to continue.
In Account Xpress, all data (i.e. accounts, transactions, etc.) are stored in a file with a .acx extension by default. Generally, one Account Xpress data file per household should be sufficient unless the occupants want to keep track of their personal finances independently from each other for personal reasons. In this exercise, you will create a new Account Xpress data file for John (our 32-year old bachelor) as follows:
At this point, the file has been created in memory (RAM), but is not yet saved to disk. That is why the file name appears as Untitled in the title bar. To save the file to disk:
Observe how the full path of the file is now displayed in the title bar.
Finally, you want this file to be saved automatically whenever you close it (i.e. when you open a different file, create a new one, or quit Account Xpress):
Instead of showing all existing data in a file, which over time would be useless and cumbersome, Account Xpress only displays data for a specific period at a time, which you can change any time as needed. When you open a file in Account Xpress, its selected period is set to a default start and end date (the default period), which you can also change as needed. Originally (when you create a new file), the default period of a file is set to start two months prior to the current date and to end on the current date.
For this tutorial, assume that you want the default period for John's data file to include six months ending at the end of the current month as follows:
Observe how the currently selected period itself has NOT yet been affected by the change to the default period. But the new default period will be selected automatically the next time the file is opened. To select the default period immediately, click the drop-down arrow next to the period button in the Identification bar (top of the right pane) and select 'Default period'.
Account Xpress can handle any number of accounts but to keep this tutorial simple, assume that John has only three accounts described as follows:
|Account Name||Account Type||Opening
|CO-OP||Checking||December 31, 2016||$2,548.15|
|Amex||Credit Card||January 9, 2017||-$387.56|
|Cash||Cash||February 25, 2017||$87.50|
To create the first account in the list (CO-OP):
At this point, you should see some information in the right pane about the newly created account. Please take a minute to review that information. You may notice that the credit limit (CR Limit column) is set to zero, which is the default value for any new account created. You will see in the next exercise how to change the credit limit. You will also see how to change other account values that are not shown in the account list in order to keep it from getting cluttered unnecessarily.
Now if you click the plus sign (+) next to the Accounts node in the tree view (left pane) to expand it, you will see a new node for the CO-OP account that you just created. If you then select (click) that account node, you can see its transaction list in the right pane with one transaction (i.e. the Opening Balance transaction), which Account Xpress created automatically using the Opening Balance values (date and amount) that you provided when you created that account.
Create the other two accounts from the list above as follows:
Take some time to verify how the newly created accounts appear in the account list and how an opening balance transaction was automatically created for each of them using the information provided in the steps above.
When you create new accounts in your own file, simply use your most recent financial statements to get the accounts opening balance and date. For your Cash account, use the current date and the amount of cash that you have on hand at that time as your opening balance date and opening balance amount respectively.
In the previous exercise, you created three accounts in John's data file. While creating those accounts, you did set a few values for them (i.e. the account name, account type and account currency). In reality, there are many other useful values that can be set for an account. In this exercise, you will change the credit limit for John's Amex credit card account.
Assume that the credit limit on John's Amex credit card is $3,000. Before you change the credit limit on that account, select the Accounts node in the tree view (left pane) and observe how the credit limit (CR Limit) and available credit (Available CR) appear as 0.00 and (387.56) respectively for the Amex account in the right pane. Note that the parenthesis around the available credit amount represent a negative value, which also appears in red to indicate that the available credit for that account has been exceeded. Fix this problem by changing the credit limit for the Amex account as follows:
Now select the Accounts node again in the tree view (if not already selected) and observe how the credit limit and available credit values now appear as 3,000.00 and 2,612.44 respectively for the Amex account. This is telling us that based on its current balance and credit limit, John can still charge up to $2,612.44 (3000 - 387.56) to his Amex credit card without exceeding his credit limit.
TIP: The credit limit value of an account has another useful purpose. Some banks will drop their basic monthly service fee if you keep your checking account balance over a certain amount. When that is the case, you can set the credit limit for that account as the negative value of that amount and Account Xpress will automatically display the available credit amount in red whenever the account balance drops below that value.
BONUS: Right-click one of the account nodes in the tree view and choose Edit. Then take a few minutes to explore the different pages and fields that are available in the Account Properties dialog. Most field values are optional, but could be useful for tracking additional information about each account if desired. Click Cancel to close the Account Properties dialog when you are done.
Budget Categories are special accounts that allow you to keep track of your income (revenue) and expenses. They allow you to see not only where your money is coming from, but more importantly where it goes. They also give you the ability to create a budget plan and see how it compares to your actual income and expenses (i.e. Actuals versus Budget).
Just like folders on your hard drive can have sub-folders, budget categories in Account Xpress can also have sub-categories. The Budget Categories node in the tree view is the root node of a hierarchical structure of budget categories where a budget category can be split into one or more sub-categories, which can also be split into even further sub-categories, and so on. The terms category and budget category can be used interchangeably to represent a budget category at any level in that hierarchical structure.
When you create a new file in Account Xpress, a default set of budget categories is created automatically for you under the Budget Categories node in the tree view. This has for purpose to give you an idea of the kind of categories you may need and to give you a head-start on creating those categories. Since different people have different kinds of income and expenses, you almost certainly will want to update the default categories according to your own needs and preferences.
In this exercise, you will change the default set of income and expense categories as per John's requirements. First, John doesn't have a home phone and also prefers to record all his bank charges directly under Bank Charges instead of using its sub-categories (i.e. Bank Charges\Interest and Bank Charges\Services). Therefore, we need to delete the Bank Charges\Interest, Bank Charges\Services and Bills\Telephone budget categories as follows:
In addition to paying income tax, John also pays employment insurance premiums, both being deducted automatically from his pay checks. For reporting purposes, John would like to see both deductions as separate sub-categories of a Salary Deductions main category.
The Income Tax budget category was already created as part of the set of default categories when the file was created. But you need to create a Salary Deductions main category and an EI Premiums sub-category, then move the Income Tax category as a sub-category of the Salary Deductions main category newly created. Start by creating the Salary Deductions main category:
The Salary Deductions main category is now created. Next, create the EI Premiums sub-category:
If it's not already expanded, click the plus sign (+) next to the Salary Deductions category node in the tree view to expand it. You should now see the EI Premiums sub-category under the Salary Deductions main category.
Next, move the Income Tax category as a sub-category of Salary Deductions:
The Income Tax budget category should now appear as a sub-category under Salary Deductions.
When you organize your own budget categories, start by deleting any categories that you don't need. Then add any missing categories that you do need. You can also rename any existing category as per your own preferences. To rename a budget category, simply right-click it in the tree view, choose Edit from the popup menu, set the Category Name as per your own preference and click OK.
Now that you have created some accounts and organized John's categories, you are ready to create some transactions. In this exercise you will create four transactions; two expenses, one transfer and one split (a combination of income and expenses in this case).
Start with an expense transaction to show how John paid his electricity bill for December 2016 to the amount of $146.35 with a cheque from his CO-OP account (number 254) post-dated January 10, 2017 as follows:
|Date:||January 10, 2017|
|Description:||Hydro bill for the month of December 2016|
|Payee:||(Regular) NorthWestern Energy|
Create another expense transaction to show how John used his credit card to pay for his groceries on January 20, 2017 to the amount of $61.78:
|Date:||January 20, 2017|
|Reference:||(none, delete if necessary)|
Then create a transfer transaction to show how John paid his Amex owing balance with a cheque from his CO-OP account (number 255) post-dated
January 28, 2017.
NOTE: The kind of transaction that you need to create in this case is a Transfer (not an Expense). An expense generally means that you are getting something (product or service) in exchange for a certain amount of money. When you pay the owing balance of a Credit Card account, you are actually transferring money from one account to another (e.g. from your checking account to your credit card account). Create this transaction as follows:
|Date:||January 28, 2017|
|Description:||Amex statement of January 9, 2017|
A split transaction can be any combination of income, expenses and/or transfers. To record John's salary income for the two weeks ending January 27, 2017, you need to create a split transaction that includes one account (CO-OP), one income category (Salary Income) and 2 expense categories (Salary Deductions\Income Tax and Salary Deductions\EI Premiums) as follows:
Take a little time to see how the transactions just created appear in the transaction list of their respective accounts, budget categories and payers/ payees.
A transaction series is a set of similar transactions created at once such as the payment of the rent with a series of post-dated checks. Where applicable, creating a transaction series is much faster than creating the same set of transactions one at a time. In this exercise, you will create a transaction series for John.
In order to save time, instead of writing one check at the beginning of each month, John writes a series of 12 post-dated checks once a year to pay for his rent. To make this even more realistic, let's say that John wrote his last series of post-dated checks for his rent a couple of months ago and that two of those checks have already been cashed. The next check number in that series is 242. Create a transaction series to record the last 10 checks in that series as follows:
|Date:||January 1, 2017|
|Payee:||(Regular) ACME Management|
If you select the CO-OP account node in the tree view, you should now see the first few rent payment transactions of the newly created transaction series in the transaction list in the right pane. The other transactions in that series have also been created, but you don't see them in the list at this point as their respective date is outside of the currently selected period.
Some transactions such as car payments, rent or mortgage payments, insurance premiums payments, and many more are repetitive in nature. With the exception of a few of their easily computable values, those transactions hardly ever change from one occurrence to the next. Since their changing values can easily be calculated between occurrences, you can save a fair amount of time by letting Account Xpress create those repetitive transactions automatically for you at the right time with the use of transaction generators.
Assume that John has authorized his cable service provider to charge his credit card directly to pay for his cable service payment every month. His monthly bill total amount is $59.64 US and is due on the 10th of each month. Create a transaction generator that will automatically create a new cable bill payment transaction on the 10th of each month starting on February 10, 2017 as follows:
|Date:||February 10, 2017|
|Reference:||AUTHDB (stands for Authorized Debit)|
At this point, if you select the Transaction Generators node in the tree view (left pane), you should see the new transaction generator that you just created in the list in the right pane. To modify a transaction generator, simply double-click it in the list.
From this point on, each time this file is opened, Account Xpress will check this transaction generator and automatically create any missing cable bill payment transactions up to the current date if necessary. You can also get transaction generators to generate transaction occurences ahead of time by selecting the generator(s) in the list and then choosing 'Generators > Generate now'.
Not all repetitive transactions are good candidates for transaction generators. Let's take grocery shopping for example. Although many of the details of those transactions are often repeated from one occurrence to the next, their amount and frequency is not consistent enough for them to be automatically created by transaction generators, leaving you no choice but to enter them manually instead.
Fortunately, transaction templates simplify the process of entering those repetitive transactions by entering all the repetitive details automatically with a couple of clicks of the mouse, leaving you with the only task of entering the non-repetitive details such as the transaction amount and maybe also the transaction date.
Assuming that John usually does his groceries at Safeway once a week, which he pays for with his Amex credit card. Create a transaction template that will save him time whenever he has to record a groceries transaction as follows:
At this point, if you select the Transaction Templates node in the tree view (left pane), you should see the transaction template that you just created in the list in the right pane. To modify a transaction template, simply double-click it in the list. If you choose 'Transactions > New', you will also see that the Groceries transaction template appears as a menu option. All transaction templates that you create in your file will appear as menu options under 'Transactions > New'.
To use a transaction template is also very simple. Now that we have a transaction template for John's groceries, let's use it to create a new groceries transaction.
Now you can see how a transaction template can save you a lot of time. Note that when using a transaction template, just because some selections are made by default to save you time, that does mean that you can not change them as needed. For example, if John had used a different payment method or did his groceries at a different supermarket for a change, he could still have used the Groceries transaction template and then changed those specific entries as needed.
One of the great features in Account Xpress is the ability to reconcile each account with the account statement that you get from your financial institution (or passbook that you update periodically) for that account. In this exercise, we will assume that John has received his CO-OP account statement for the period of January 1 to January 31, 2017. The information on John's statement appears as follows:
|Jan 01||Balance forward||2,548.15|
|Jan 01||Check# 242||750.00||1,798.15|
|Jan 10||Check# 254||146.35||1,651.80|
|Jan 28||Check# 255||387.56||2,706.88|
Reconcile this statement of account with John's CO-OP account in Account Xpress as follows:
It is common to see some transactions on your financial statements that have not yet been entered in Account Xpress when you do a reconciliation. For example, your checking account statement may show some valid service charges that you will have to enter into Account Xpress in order to complete your reconciliation. You should not however enter any questionnable transactions that appear on your statement without first confirming their validity with your financial institution. It is easy to forget about certain transactions, but there is always a possibility for fraudulent or otherwise unauthorized transactions to appear on your financial statements as well, which should be reported as such to your financial institution as soon as possible.
Also, some transactions on your financial statements may have a different date than their equivalent transactions in Account Xpress. This is normal given the fact that it can take some time for a financial institution to process a transaction for various reasons. You should not worry about modifying the date of those transactions in Account Xpress. As long as the final balance on your financial statement matches the balance on the last cleared transaction in Account Xpress, there is no need to be concerned.
In this tutorial, you have learned the basic concepts required to start using Account Xpress. While the tutorial did not cover all the features available in Account Xpress, it did cover the most important ones that you need in order to start managing your own personal finances.
We hope that you found this tutorial useful. If you have any questions or comments about this tutorial or Account Xpress itself, please visit our support page at http://felitec.com/support/
Thank you for your interest in Account Xpress.